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FEMA awards funding for local food and shelter programs

MATT CHAPMAN
Staff Writer

Lincoln County has been awarded federal funding to supplement emergency food and shelter programs in the county.

The Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has elected to give Lincoln County $16,781 through its Emergency Food and Shelter Program. A national board chaired by FEMA that consists of representatives from American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, The Jewish Federations of North America, The Salvation Army and United Way Worldwide determines how to distribute the funding. The program has distributed $4.4 billion to over 14,000 human service agencies in more than 2,500 communities across the country since its inception in 1983.

This FEMA funding is then distributed by a local board that consists of representatives from the Lincoln County Department of Social Services, Lincoln Housing Authority, American Red Cross, Lincoln County Parks and Recreation, Gaston Community Action, YMCA, NC Works Career Center, Senior Services, Veterans Affairs and the United Way of Lincoln County. In recent years, the money has been donated to the Hesed House of Hope and the Lincoln County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, two agencies responsible for providing to those in need.

“Over the past couple of years we’ve used this funding as shelter money,” United Way of Lincoln County executive director Kathy Vinzant said. “The Hesed House is not open year-round, so this money helps us keep it open for as long as possible. Just today I had a nice couple knock on my door who had picked up a homeless couple from Alexis walking down the street. We don’t have any please to put them so I had to send them to the shelters in Gaston or Catawba County. The needs are absolutely huge in our community for homelessness. It’s a much larger problem in our community than I think most people realize.”

Lincoln County doesn’t automatically qualify for FEMA funds due to a relatively low unemployment rate that currently sits at 3.8 percent. Therefore, a special application for state set aside funding  has to be filed to help address these needs in the community.

“The unemployment rate is what it is, but it’s not indicative of the real problems that we have in our community,” Vinzant said. “If you look at our poverty rate being 28.6 percent, while the state average is 16.1 percent, we’re way above the state average in poverty. Most counties don’t even have to apply for these funds, they just get it because of their unemployment rate. Meanwhile, we have to jump through a few hoops to be able to bring this money into our community.”

Local agencies eligible to receive this funding must be private voluntary nonprofits or units of government, eligible to receive federal funds, have an accounting system, practice nondiscrimination, have demonstrated the capability to deliver emergency food and/or shelter programs and, if they are a private voluntary organization, have a voluntary board.

Qualifying agencies are urged to apply by contacting local board chair Louann Freshour at (704) 735-3500 or Vinzant at (704) 732-8055. The deadline to apply for these state set aside funds is July 31.

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